ONE OF MY ONLY SHINING MOMENTS IN SPORTS
By Steve Moreland, April 9, 2018
Sports of any kind have never really been my cup of tea. I’m not particularly athletic, and have just not had the burning passion to get too involved. My dad never encouraged me along these lines. He was never very sports minded in his younger days, and he always figured that the time and energy expended could just as well be used instead in the pursuit of occupational betterment. He liked for me to be home soon after school was out each day, to help with ranch work and the daily chores that needed done. In the spirit of “honor thy father and thy mother,” and the fact that I “usually” regarded my dad as my hero, I tried to comply.
During my sixth and seventh grade years, I attended town school. For our Phys Ed program, we participated in junior high basketball games with other local schools. I didn’t particularly enjoy doing this but it seemed to be required.
For my eighth grade year, we had country school. This was held in the tenant house at the neighboring ranch of Bruce and Bonnie Weber, with Mildred Forrester as our teacher. She lived in the tenant house, and school was held in the living room. With the three Weber kids, and my sisters and me, there were six kids in six different grades. A glorious part of that whole year for me was that I didn’t have to play junior high sports.
Our country school did participate in the annual rural track meet held each year in Merriman, but that was always kind of fun. All the area country schools would come to town, and there were some pretty cute girls that would come in out of the hills. I could usually win a ribbon in racing, high jump, and long jump (which was called “broad jump” in those days), and I could just about count on winning the chinning contest. One year, I was chinning right along and did fifteen very easily. Being quite confident that would be enough to win, I stopped and didn’t do any more. Darned if the last kid to come up didn’t do 22 chin-ups. We each got three tries, but he won that year. I still remember that his name was David Roebuck. The fifth event at these old country track meets was ball throw, and that was my nemesis. I was always lucky to just qualify with a “standard” achievement in that event. The “standards” were the low end of expectations set up for each age group of boys or girls. Fortunately through my years as a cowboy and rancher, I’ve always been able to throw a rope much better than I could ever throw a ball.
In high school, doing physical education during school hours was required, but going out for extra-curricular sports was not. I skipped through my freshman year with no sports and no worries. When I was a sophomore in the fall of 1967, there was a jerk who was the new coach for Merriman High School. His name was Bill Arndt, from Iowa, and he and I had a personality conflict right off the bat. With only twenty kids in the whole high school that year, and with boys being in short supply, he was bound and determined that he was going to “require” me to go out for basketball. I didn’t care for his pushy arrogant attitude, and I was just as determined that it was not going to happen.
I was required to go out for Phys Ed. As he was both the coach and Phys Ed instructor, he tried to make life difficult for all the boys and especially me. There were only five boys out for basketball, so there wasn’t even a spare if someone fouled out or got hurt. By recruiting some of the junior high boys, and with Mr. Arndt playing himself, we could conjure up ten warm bodies to scrimmage. Five of the players would take off their shirts, and the others wouldn’t. The two teams would be the “skins” and the “shirts.” I despised Arndt with a passion, and if he was on one team and I was on the other, I was a fairly good player. If I had to be on the same team as him, I wasn’t worth a darn.
One day ol’ Arndt got mad and on his high horse. He said, “I’m going to take on each player, one on one. For every basket I make on you, you have to run ten laps of the gym. For every basket you make on me, it doesn’t count.” I don’t remember what the time limit was, but probably two minutes per encounter. He played the five main guys that were out for basketball, and he made two or three baskets on each one of them, and not a one of them made any baskets on him. My turn came along, and he was probably starting to get tired. He and I played against each other. He was tired, and I was mad. He didn’t make a single basket on me, and I made one on him. It delighted me that all the good players had to run quite a few laps, and I didn’t have to run a single one. What’s more, it was me that he really wanted to punish. It was a proud moment in my sports career.
A footnote to the above story was that Bill Arndt got fired at semester time, and a new coach Tom Nelson was hired. Mr. Nelson was such a nice guy that I actually relaxed my no-play stance, and did go out for basketball for the rest of the season. I wasn’t much of a player, but at least the team did have a substitute and someone to keep the bench warm. It kind of tickled me that Dad was justifiably proud that I had enough patriotic duty to go out for basketball, but then he wondered why I wasn’t one of the super jocks. Oh well, you can’t win them all.